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Rooney's Defense Strategy

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Brian Rooney Brian Rooney
Michelle Gardner-Quinn Michelle Gardner-Quinn

Rutland, Vermont - May 14, 2008

A jury has been selected and trial will begin Thursday for Brian Rooney, the man accused of raping and killing UVM student Michelle Gardner-Quinn 18 months ago.

Wednesday, Rooney's lawyer previewed the strategy he may use to discredit the state's most powerful scientific evidence.

For months, legal experts have speculated how Rooney will attack the DNA evidence that indicates he was the only person on earth who could have murdered Gardner-Quinn.

Wednesday, the speculation ended as the jury was selected.

"The twelve of you who are seated behind the box are the jury in this case," Vt. District Court Judge Michael Kupersmith told the jurors.

It took nearly two days to select the seven women and five men who will determine Brian Rooney's fate.

While questioning the prospective jurors, Rooney's lawyer indicated the accused killer will probably not testify to explain why his DNA material was found in her body.

"If Mr. Rooney never testified in this case, would you use that election on his part as a negative inference against him?" defense lawyer David Sleigh asked prospective jurors.

The jurors who were seated said no, they would not hold it against him.

But legal expert Cheryl Hanna of the Vt. Law School said it's a gamble for the defense. "You know there's always a risk when you don't put your client on the stand. But also a risk if you do."

Rooney's lawyer also made it clear he will focus on the DNA evidence itself.

"So would you agree in situations like that, laboratories have a duty to maintain that sort of control over samples so that we have confidence in the results. And mix-ups can have drastic consequences?" asked Sleigh.

Hanna says attacking DNA evidence these days in court is a challenge.

"It's very difficult to attack DNA evidence these days. The science is very clear and the methodology is very, very well accepted," she explains. "I suspect what will happen is that David Sleigh will attack the sample itself. But I don't suspect that Judge Kupersmith will allow DNA science to go on trial."

The trial begins Thursday with opening arguments from the prosecution and the defense. It's expected to last up to two weeks.

Brian Joyce - WCAX News

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Rooney Charged With Gardner-Quinn Murder

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